I spent my Christmas vacation making this frog out of newspaper, masking tape, pipe cleaners and paper mache clay. I show you how I did it below. If I did it again I’d use stronger wire in place of the pipe cleaners so I could get thinner fingers and toes, but that’s the only part of the process I’d change.
This is the real frog I used as my model. I’m sorry I don’t know what kind of frog it is.
You can clearly see that my version won’t win any awards at the science fair – but if you spend just a bit more effort than I did you could reproduce the colors and patterns with more accuracy. And with heavier wire instead of the fuzzy pipe cleaners, skinny toes would be possible, too. Wouldn’t it be fun to create a display of poison dart frogs in all their colorful varieties?
You can find photos of many different species of frogs by doing a Google Image search for frog photos. (I don’t know why there’s a mouse riding on one of those frogs…)
You’ll need some patience to make your frog. Like all small paper mache projects, you very quickly run out of dry areas to hold on to, so you’ll need to let your paper mache clay dry several times before you can continue to cover him with more clay. Also, a frog’s legs are perfectly engineered springs, and even when you imitate them with wire the legs tend to move around until the joints are encased in hardened clay. This makes them a bit more difficult to work with. This is definitely not an instant project, but if you like frogs, the results are worth the extra effort.
You could make the frog using traditional paper strips and paste, although the eyes will be more difficult to sculpt, and it will be more difficult to get the nice smooth froggy skin.
Crumple some newspaper into a frog-like shape. I used two balls–the larger one for the body and a smaller, flatter one for the head. You can see the basic shape, from the side, below. Since it gets covered in clay, you don’t need to worry about the weird bumps and valleys. The clay will cover them smoothly.
Tape the center of one long wire to the frog’s chest, just below the “chin.”
Now twist the ends of the wire to make the fingers. If you’re using pipe cleaners you’ll need another one for each arm so you’ll have enough for all fingers and some extra length to wind around the arm, strengthening it. Tape any extra wire to the frog’s tummy. It will be covered with paper mache clay, and the extra wire helps to anchor the arms and legs.
Do the same thing with the back legs, attaching them to the frog’s rear end.
Use aluminum foil to pad the legs and arms, and use masking tape to cover the toes.
Begin to cover the frog with your paper mache clay. Cover only as much as you can while holding a dry area of the frog. Then allow the clay to harden in a warm place, and finish the rest. You’ll need to support the legs and fingers while adding your clay to these areas. A very thin layer, 1/8 ” thick, will be enough. Smooth the clay as much as possible with the flat side of your knife while applying it to the frog.
After the frog has been completely covered and the clay is dry, go back and add a bump of clay for each eye. Look at the real frog’s photo at the top of this page to see how the eye should look. Let the eye harden completely in a warm place, then paint your frog with some home-made gesso:
- 1 tablespoon of joint compound
- 1 teaspoon of white glue.
When the gesso is dry, sand your frog, if needed. I found an interesting product at the hardware store this week that helps in sanding small, rounded areas like frog legs, called drywall sanding screen. You can cut the screen with an old pair of scissors and use it like a flexible file. Ordinary sandpaper works just fine, too.
This type of frog has bumps on his back. I used a technique more commonly used by cake decorators: Put some of your home-made gesso (see above) in a small plastic bag and cut off one of the points. Then squeeze small dots of gesso onto your frog’s back, and allow it to dry. Then sand off the little points, and you’ve got some nice frog bumps.
The final step, of course, is to paint your frog. I tried to come reasonably close to the patterns and colors of the real frog I used as a model, but I missed a few spots.
If you make a frog yourself, please let us see how he turns out.